Monday, June 9, 2014

One Writer's Social Media Campaign: What Worked, What Didn't

Recently, I started promoting my writing with special events -- readings and lectures -- and using social media to publicize those events.  I read at public libraries, youth hostels, adult education centers, and fringe theater festivals. The results: My readings and lectures were mentioned on numerous Web sites and by media outlets that normally wouldn't have given me the time of day. This blog post describes social media tactics I used as well as what worked and what didn't

I assembled my short fiction into a one-man show called "The Chronic Single's Handbook." Recent performances were mentioned in publications such as the Orlando Sentinel.

Readings and Special Events for Writers

To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut: Writers are in show business. Put on a good show and you'll get noticed. But reading straight from your book is boring. Some better options:
- Rework short scenes from your fiction and creative non-fiction into stand-alone stories, memorize them, and enhance with a little acting. Tips on reading your work in public.
- Non-fiction writers can create entertaining lectures. Contrary to popular belief, Powerpoint presentations can be engaging -- just keep them short and kooky.  Lectures and Powerpoint presentations I've given
- Then find venues and festivals that will let you read/perform/lecture. Look for organizations that have in-house marketing staffs that will promote your event. Recent venues and festivals

After you've read at your local library and hit up your friends, family, and co-workers several times, you'll need to branch out to other cities and other audiences. Drawing an audience in a distant city is tough.

Over the last month, I've performed scenes from my book at fringe theater festivals in Atlanta and Orlando. Here's how I used social media and Web marketing to generate awareness of events held far from my hometown of Boston.

Web and Social Media Marketing for Events


1) Help the Venue Promote You

- I provided a short description of my event, plus photos, links to my Web site, links to my youtube channel, a press release -- whatever they want.
- I met all deadlines and size requirements. If they wanted a 60-word description, I didn't send a 70-word description.

My Results: Excellent
- I was listed in printed and online show catalogs produced by the venues.
- I was mentioned on the venues' Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr pages.
- In Orlando, I was listed in a preview in The Orlando Weekly.
- In Orlando, I was reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel and the art publication Watermark. These articles were picked up by blogs and social media.

2) Ask Fans, Followers, and Connections for Help

- I created a Web page describing my event.
- I created a short note linking to the Web page and asking people for help.
- In the short note, I explained -- specifically -- how people could help and made it easy for them to do so. (I asked people to post a link to the Web page and ask their friends to retweet it on Twitter and share it on Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.)
- I sent the short note to email contacts and posted it to other email lists, such as a college alumni email list, my blog, and as a social media update.
- LinkedIn: This site has a unique feature that lets you sort your contacts by location and send them a note. I created groups of contacts in Orlando (about 10 people) and Atlanta. (about 15 people). I sent them a note through LinkedIn. Several people offered to post my note to their connections. (More on how to do this next week.)

My Results: Mediocre, but worth trying.
- Email: About half of my contacts read the email. Several posted to Twitter, etc as I had asked. The key benefit: I connected with former coworkers, friends, and other contacts who I only email a few times a year.
- Social Media: I got a few retweets and shares.
- Not sure if this brought anyone to my shows.

An email blast to my Mailchimp contacts was opened by about half of them.

Sample of note I sent over LinkedIn

3)  Posted to Related Social Media Groups and Pages

- I searched Facebook and Google+ for groups in my target cities. For both Orlando and Atlanta, I found a bunch. My book is about a chronically single guy who takes a trip around the world looking for the woman of his dreams. So, I looked for groups in my target cites that catered to singles, travelers, or folks interested in the arts.
- I checked the rules of the groups to see if posting links was OK. If so, I joined. If I wasn't sure, I dropped a note to the group owner and asked if I could post my event.

My Results: Negligible. Not Sure if this is worth the time.
- One group owner posted my link on his group and personal Facebook page.
- A few people in a Google+ group liked and commented on my post.
- Not sure this brought anyone to my shows

4) Posted to Meetup Groups

- I joined and searched by city and interests (arts, travel, and singles)
- After joining, I posted my show as a possible event for the group.
- In most cases, the event never got posted to the group.
- In a few it did and I was listed as the host.
(more on this next week)

My Results: Negligible, but worth trying.
- In one Orlando group, seven people signed up to see my show.
- Only one showed up.
- In one Atlanta group, the moderator asked me to pay to $50 post my event. I declined.
- Why it's worth trying: I did an event in November that was picked up by a Meetup in Boston and five people showed up. A friend did an event last year and dozens of Meetup folks showed up. lets you search for groups of people with common interests in other cities. Then you can post your event. Though my results were mixed, the process doesn't take much time and is probably worth trying.

5) Contact Media in Target cities

- I created a press release with links to a basic online press kit with photos, a resume, and other information the press might want.
- I asked the festival organizers for a list of local media contacts in Atlanta and Orlando.
- I also Googled each city for editors who cover arts and entertainment. I found a few editors with email addresses and emailed my press release. For those who didn't post their email addresses, I located them on Twitter, followed them, and sent them a tweet about my show.
- Many media sites have events calendars: I uploaded my event to the calendars.
(more on press releases next week)

My Results: Good
- My event was listed in dozens of events calendars.
- But I was not interviewed by the local press.

6) During the Shows
- I took selfies and other photos, and posted them to my Facebook and Twitter pages. I always mentioned the venue, so they could see I was working to promote myself and the festival.
- Each morning, I Googled my name and my show for mentions that I might share with Facebook and Twitter followers.
- For Facebook, I posted to my Author Page, then logged out and logged in using my personal account. I went to my Author Page and then liked and shared the link.

My Results: Good
- My posts on my Facebook Page reached ten to twenty times more people than normal.

A post of me with a 6' 7" female impersonator at the Atlanta Fringe festival reached 193 of my Facebook fans. Typically, my posts reach about 20 of my 2,000 fans.

More on Special Events and PR

- One Writer's Platform: Events and PR

- Promote Your Writing: Events, Readings, and Fringe Festivals

- My Note to Blog Subscribers Requesting Help Promoting Recent Events

Photo credit: George Skene, Orlando Sentinel / May 16, 2014

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